Graduate school creates split decisions

By Laura Van De Pette
May 4, 2006

Dan Squire

As graduation approaches quickly many of the seniors will consider attending graduate school but one question they need to consider is whether or not graduate school is necessary to enhance their career or just a way to avoid a mediocre job. When it comes to grad school, are students attending because they need to, or just because they can’t find a spectacular job? Before you drop 50 thousand more dollars for a graduate degree that may take two to four years, you had better know if it is worth it.

Dawn Francis, an assistant English and communications professor, said, “The benefit of graduate school is that it helps you think more analytically and strategically. You develop better research abilities and deeper knowledge of your discipline of study. I found, personally, that having a graduate degree prepared me for management-level positions in a corporate setting. As a manager, I was expected to be a strategic thinker, a visionary, and a leader.”

Some others may be more hesitant to shell out the big bucks if being a leader or manager is not the career path they wish to explore. Joe Holden, a 2002 alum, is currently working as a news reporter at a NBC affiliate station in Scranton. He said, “I did not go to grad school because it was not necessary. Grad school would have been a waste of my time. My job is strictly based on experience in the street and in the trenches.”

According to the Senior Survey in 2003, six months after graduation seven percent of Cabrini’s graduates were attending full time graduate programs and three and a half percent were attending part-time graduate programs. In 2004, 10 percent were attending full time programs and three percent were attending part-time programs.

“Many undergraduates have never known academic failure; most have never faced a serious intellectual challenge. They have received a steady stream of praise from teachers their entire conscious lives. There are few ways for students to know whether they are really competitive, given that so many of them receive such high grades for such mediocre work. How do you finally say to your advisee, ‘Even though you have a 3.9 GPA and everyone here thinks you are wonderful, I don’t think you should go to graduate school if your aim is to become a professor. It’s just not that easy,'” said Thomas Benton, a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Last year, the total number of advertised jobs for college English professors dropped from 983 to 792, and only about half of those jobs are on the tenure track. Remember that the 977 doctorates produced in 2000-2001 will have to compete with hundreds of job-seekers from previous years.

With all the negativity that can be associated with grad school, it is astounding that so many Cabrini students dove directly into obtaining their master’s degree. Jill Hindman, a 2002 alum, is currently working as a media relations manager at GMAC. She was fortunate to have her first employer, Unisys, pay for her graduate school tuition at La Salle University shortly after her graduation at Cabrini. “I would like to think that when I apply for jobs I will have an edge. At least I hope I will! I think the immediate benefits are that I picked up some more skills and sharpened ones I already had. I can definitely say that I apply what I learned in grad school to my job on a daily basis,” said Hindman.

Dr. Mary Harris, an assistant business administration professor, said, “The benefits of graduate school are many. Receipt of a graduate degree for many companies results in an automatic increase in pay, and more importantly, more opportunities for advancement or to change career paths.”

Despite the warnings Benton gives about not going to grad school. Professors at Cabrini College have a much different outlook on graduate school. Dr. Phyllis Rumpp, an education professor, said, “It is most definitely necessary to attend grad school if you are an education major. In some school districts, you will not be hired without signing an agreement to achieve a graduate degree within a certain time limit, perhaps 3 years. In addition, most school districts in the public school systems do have tuition reimbursement. Most districts pay 80 percent of tuition as long as the courses apply to the subject you teach or may teach.”

Jennine Picini, assistant director of the co-op and career services office, said, “The best advice I can give students who are considering graduate school is if you are not completely certain what you want to study then you should not go directly after graduation.”

“In business, graduate school is much more applied in nature, and students will not benefit from it if they have not had real work experience. I also recommend that business students wait and see what post graduate degrees or certifications are the most appropriate in their chosen field,” said Harris.

Dr. Kimberly Boyd, an associate professor of biology, said, “Grad school is 100 percent dependant on the student’s career goals. With a bachelor’s degree you are very limited to what you can do and have a limited chance for advancement. The doctorate is key in the biological field. To teach or run your own research lab and experiments a doctorate is essential, a master’s degree really will not provide many more options.”

While the cost of a master’s degree can do extreme damage to your bank account, a doctorate degree can destroy it. But Boyd said, “It is very possible to find a company to pay for your Master’s degree but as for your doctorate, no company will pay for you to leave work for five to seven years. However, grants and colleges will most definitely pay for the doctorate because they want you to produce research. There is absolutely no reason to pay for your doctorate. Through government grants I received a quarter of a million dollars to pay for everything I needed while I was earning my doctorate.”

Harris said, “Most jobs in the business field will pay for graduate school as long as it is related to the job. There is no reason why anyone in the business field should have to pay for graduate school.”

Francis said, “I don’t recommend anyone attend grad school without first thinking it through and determining whether or not it will enable them to achieve their career goals.”

Pete Schulster, a 2005 alum and Cabrini admissions counselor, said, “I would have gone to graduate school whether or not Cabrini paid for my tuition. In my field, education, it is necessary. Without my master’s degree in education I might never achieve my goals. This was something I had to do.”

“I do not know of any television station, newspaper or broadcast group that would ever foot a graduate school tuition bill for one of their employees. But then again I would say anyone majoring in English and communications should think immersion rather than education. Immersion is the key to success in this field not a degree,” Holden said.

Hindman said, “I did not get my feet wet for that long before enrolling in a graduate program. But I knew that I wanted to work in communications, more specifically, I knew that for the rest of my life I will always want to write, no matter what job I am doing. However, if someone is not sure what it is they want to do as a career, they might want to hold off. For example, if they are deciding between becoming a nurse or an architect, then I would recommend a little more exploring! If you have a passion and know you can do it well, you can not go wrong by trying to make yourself a better, more marketable employee.”

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com . The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Laura Van De Pette

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